Back in 2016, the British Ministry of Defence introduced a prototype of its SA80A3 rifle at the Defense Vehicle Dynamics exposition held at Millbrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire. The weapon was the intended replacement for the SA80A2, the standard issue service rifle for the British Armed Forces. Now, the MoD has announced the British Army has officially begun fielding the SA80A3.


In a press release, the MoD said the SA80A3 is being upgraded from the SA80A2 as part of its Mid Life improvement (MLI) project. This project will “ensure” the rifle is equipped with the “enhancements” it needs to have a service life that extends to 2025 and beyond. Those enhancements include the following:

  • A more durable hardwearing coating in a “Flat Dark Earth” colour offering better camouflage in a range of environments.
  • The A3 is 100g lighter than the A2 and has a more streamlined fore grip making the weapon easier to handle.
  • The A3 rifle has a bracket to secure new innovative low light sights which can clip on or in front of the day sight without the need to remove it. These sights are smaller, lighter and require fewer batteries whilst operating just as effectively in low light/night conditions.

SA80A3 Praise

The MLI project, which will be carried out by Heckler & Koch, includes an initial investment of £5.4 million. That money will support around 20 jobs at the Nottingham Small Arms Factory where production is taking place.

“This multi-million-pound upgrade will give our Army a lighter, more hardwearing, better-camouflaged combat rifle so our soldiers can perform on the frontline of some of the most dangerous locations across the world,” Defence Minister Guto Bebb said. “This investment is also a boost to Nottingham’s highly-skilled gun-makers who proudly support our troops in their task to protect our country in the face of intensifying threats.”

Major General Colin McClean, Director Land Equipment at the MoD’s Defence Equipment and Support, praised the SA80 system and the new upgrades.

“The SA80 is a battle proven weapon used by the UK Armed Forces on operations all over the world,” McClean said. “The upgrade will build upon the rifle’s state-of-the-art features enhancing accuracy and consistency. The Mid Life Improvement project will ensure that our troops have the right equipment at the right time.”

Under the MLI project, 5,000 rifles will get the initial upgrade, with more slated for the future. Fielding of the SA80A3 began in February. The Grenadier Guards were the first regiment to receive the new rifles. Check out the video below, posted to their Facebook page, for an introductory look at the SA80A3.

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